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Dacapo - The National Music Anthology of Denmark

Format:  SACD

Catalogue Number:  6.220561

Barcode:  747313156160

Release month:  Jun 2009

Period:  Late Romantic, Late Romantic, Early 20th Century


Rued Langgaard: Rose Garden Songs

04 November 2009  Audiophile Audition
Steven Ritter
4 Stars

Rued Langgaard (1893-1952), despite the resurgence of his music today in many quarters, has very much been a prophet without honor in his own country. The Dane was not especially popular during his lifetime as an intransigent and formidable academic avantgarde kept him fenced out from more mainstream (and underground) musical thought. And his reputation now as a fine symphonist obscures the quality and very lovable attributes that we find in his choral music, presented here almost in its entirety.

Langgaard was a composer who sought to continue the romantic tradition found in such composers as Niels Gade. His choral work is melodic and gorgeously conceived, always keeping the words in focus and not cluttering up the melody with harmonies that are too obtrusive, though his harmonies can indeed be complex, some of them even reminding me of English composer Herbert Howells. The first works on this disc are my favorite here, the lovely "Alluring Sounds", "The Milkmaid", and "The Harvest Bird", followed by the namesake of the album, Rose Garden Songs, perhaps distinguished by its use of timbre and harmony as opposed to melody. Langgaard refuses to be pigeonholed, and offers us fresh takes in each work according to the muse he felt based on his texts.

Even the large number of motets and hymn melodies given here express a symbolism and romantic ethos that inspired a reactionary element in Danish music, our composer not being associated with this in any way. He steadfastly rejected the notion of enhanced use of Reformation melodies and a jettisoning of the romantic spirit. As a result, these wonderful pieces are heard through the spirit of the 19th century, unapologetically manipulated for maximum emotion effect.

This is an SACD version of a 1997 release, and welcome it is, the enhanced surround in no way sounding like a beefed-up artificial manipulation. The Ars nova Copenhagen performs this music with evident affection, and if your choral collection needs some refreshing, you've found a perfect starting place.

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